Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 25, No 2 (2012)

Liberation Theology as a Postcolonial Critique of Theological Reason:

Andrew B. Irvine
Issued Date: 15 Oct 2012

Abstract


The liberation theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez has offered an effective postcolonial critique of the conditions of life of the Latin American poor, and of a theological method that legitimated them. The present article studies early writings of Gutiérrez that show his critique taking form. In the first instance, Gutiérrez argued, theological truth is not something beheld in philosophical theoria, but is rather a performance of agonistic practice. One may usefully abstract to theoretical expressions of the truth about divine matters; however, the abstractions are only useful if—indeed only true if— they play back upon that practice to effect greater freedom for the poor. So Gutiérrez drew upon and pointed toward a ‘new spirituality’—a theological and practical reorientation away from the spirit of a Eurocentric faith, enmeshed in the geopolitics of colonialism and neocolonialism under which most Latin Americans have suffered for centuries, toward the spirit in which the poor whom he served live. Eventually, in pursuing this reorientation himself, Gutiérrez became persuaded that methodology is not the primary mode of critique, and began a turn from conceiving theology as ‘critical reflection on practice’ to conceiving it as ‘thought about a mystery’. This study’s limited purpose is to understand Gutiérrez’ development to this pivotal moment.

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DOI: 10.1558/arsr.v25i2.139

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